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Smartphone Tethering – One Device, One Strategy for Mobile Connectivity

Smartphone Tethering – One Device, One Strategy for Mobile Connectivity

by MaaS360 staff | February 18, 2010

Did you know that your Smartphone has exactly the same radio and data capabilities as that $400 data card sitting in the bottom of your bag? Yup, that cool shiny Smartphone you are so attached to and is never more than three feet away from you has all the capabilities and the same technology as that clunky USB dongle thing that you can never find when you need it.

This has actually been the case for a couple years now, but something has changed in the last year or so that you may not be aware of that can actually let you take advantage of this technology. What has changed? Simple, a user experience wrapper that actually works well enough to allow you to take advantage of your Smartphone’s ability to make data calls. Let me explain.

In the past, to get your Smartphone connected to a wireless carrier’s data network so that your laptop could access the Internet over 3G you had to perform some pretty astounding and silly human tricks. First, you had to figure out how to make your PC talk to the Smartphone over a USB cable and if you were really up for a challenge, get your Smartphone to talk to your PC over Bluetooth. Once this was accomplished (no small task based on personal experience), you then had to know all the cryptic codes, numbers and parameters to make a data call to the Carrier. Chances were about one in ten you’d get a successful connection. Some of the more progressive handset manufacturers, such as Nokia, created software solutions for their devices that attempts to make this process go more smoothly. These solutions were also hit and miss, and while they could get the Smartphone tethered over USB and Bluetooth, they did not always have all the information required for your carrier of choice to get the data call competed. Wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone have also made attempts to add tethering capabilities to their connection managers, but are similarly challenged in providing a reasonable user experience that works consistently.

In the past year, however, we have seen a couple things that make the Smartphone tethering user experience more tolerable, and actually work. The first is that operating system support for device tethering over USB and Bluetooth is much improved. In addition, the leading universal connection managers are handling the user experience much better and making the steps required to achieve Smartphone tethering happen in the background, as well as storing and managing the all important device and carrier profiles.

While the user experience improvements are critical, there were other issues presenting a barrier to adoption of using Smartphone Tethering for data calls. Incredibly, most devices and wireless carriers did not support concurrent SMS, data and voice calls! This, in itself, made the idea of tethering your Smartphone for a lengthy data session unthinkable. All those important voice calls going to voicemail with no notification while you were browsing Facebook. Unthinkable! Fortunately, the utopian world of concurrent data and voice is a reality on most carrier networks and Smartphone device combinations today.

So now that we have the technology and the user experience issues covered, so what?

As 3G and 4G networks are built out and promoted, they are winning the mindshare battle. Wi-Fi and mobile users are demanding this always-on, everywhere convenient form of access. While demand is up, the cost of providing and managing a separate device and plan for these services is a burden that most companies are not willing to carry for the typical mobile worker. This is where tethering really has the potential to open the flood gates for wider adoption with reduced burden on the IT staff and reduced financial overhead.

Last, but not least, the wireless carriers have to participate with suitable plans and tariffs, which we are already starting to see. Most leading wireless carriers accommodate this strategy with specific Smartphone tethering plans with reasonable usage caps and plans that are well suited to casual users. There is now an opportunity to implement a “One Device” (the Smartphone), “One Plan” (the existing user plan plus tethering) strategy to achieve greater mobile workforce productivity and cost savings.

To recap, the critical elements are:

  • A good user experience via a leading universal connection manager like the MaaS360 Mobile Service.
  • A Smartphone and wireless carrier combination that supports concurrent SMS, data and voice calls.
  • A wireless carrier partner with flexible Smartphone tethering plans.
  • A little bit of user education around the tethering process and acceptable use of a mobile data device.
  • A Smartphone that has a good tethering and data capabilities, such as the Blackberry Bold, Nokia E71 or Windows Mobile 6.x devices.
  • Windows 7 can also help with its new and improved support for mobile data devices built in to the base operating system.
Embracing wider adoption of 3G technology across the enterprise is simpler and more cost effective than ever. One device, one strategy.

Read the Universal Wireless Client white paper.

Learn more about Tethering with the MaaS360 Mobile Service on our Web site.

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